My Tales

When Bread Was Life

when bread was life tales by ortis

I don’t know whether this story will make sense to someone who went to either a private high school or a day school. Like do you know how precious bread was? And blue-band? And Jam, red plum Jam to be specific? What about sugar? Or a box of Nice biscuits? What about Quencher juice?

Some of us got visited once a term, yet our shopping got finished by the 2nd week after re-opening school.

My father visited me with #Standard newspaper and 1kg of Sugar in the middle of the term halafu abebe Sim Sim ya 50bob.

It wasn’t easy, but at least he visited and I survived. So when I hear some of my friends telling me how they used to eat sausages, pancakes, eggs, and chicken all while in school, I get surprised.

People, you don’t know what survival for the fittest means. My friend called Absy led a huge strike because the number of sausages reduced from three to two while in Kitusuru boys. Lanes!

This is a story of how I once became a petty thief, am I proud of it? No. But, I had to do what I had to do to survive. Christians say Jesus is the bread of life; but in high school, bread was life.

If you agree inua mkono juu? Halafu sasa upate fanta baridi na hio mkate aki. That meal was heavenly.

Sundays were always special. So, on this specific day, we had Mass. This was a catholic school. And the singing part was what I always looked forward to.

‘Naja upesi, shiiiiiiiika saaaana, ulicho nacho, Usinyang’anywe!!!!! This is a song that gave me so much psyche, to what I was about to elope with, in the school Dining hall..

On this day, like every other Sunday, we had bread for breakfast. Bread that’s provided by the school. And, yes, it was ONLY once a week.

The other days ni wewe na mfuko yako kujinunulia mkate. I was broke, super broke. And I needed to have enough bread to take me through the week.

Just after Mass as students were preparing for breakfast to be served, I was already hiding somewhere in the DH waiting for the jerricans of tea and bread to be put on every table.

We did self-service. A whole bread was shared among 4 students. Kila mtu quarter, then there was the BB and Jam on small plates. Once all the tables were set, it would take like 5 minutes before the breakfast bell rang, and this grace period gave me time to make my move.

Swiftly, I went straight to the form four tables with my bag. Thing is, I never took bread from form 1 or 2 tables. They were innocent, I went straight to form 4’s tables and if I had a grudge with anyone from that table, woe unto you! I would take all the loaves and disappear.

So, I stuffed 5 loaves of bread in my bag taking one from each table. All this time, I was keen enough that no one could see me. If I was found, I’d get a thorough beating. Yaani kichapo cha mbwa. I was always in trouble for NO apparent reason.

Once I had the package ready, I sneaked out of the DH without being seen. Shortly, the bell rang. We streamed inside the DH in hundreds; myself included.

But just before the captain prayed for the breakfast, we heard someone shout, “Bana! Hatuna mkate kwa meza yetu!” I followed suit by saying “Bana! Pia sisi tumeibiwa mkate. Hii shule ina mchezo mingi sana. Hakuna vile tutaibiwa mkate kila wiki!”

The captain goes ahead to ask the chefs why some tables were not served. They tell him all the tables were served. The teacher on duty, who happened to be my maths teacher and the most feared human being in that school compound, was also there and witnessed the whole drama. What he said next got me numb.

“I want everyone to go to the assembly right now. And I want all prefects to stand at the exits of the DH and make sure everyone goes to to the assembly.” We all complied. I knew he was up to something. I just wasn’t quite sure what it was. At the assembly, the speech began.

“We have been having cases of bread theft in this school for a while and it’s quite unfortunate that some of you value your stomachs more than other students’.

But, today is your day of reckoning. We are doing an inspection BEFORE having breakfast and if anyone of you is found with stolen bread, you are going to buy each student in this assembly a full loaf of bread for the whole week.

Failure to do so, you will be arrested, and sent home for good.” This teacher never bluffed. He meant every word he said. Dang!!!! I was found.

Nguvu iliniisha kwa mwili, I just fell down in disbelief. What would I tell my father? I just felt like lying down on that ground and cry myself out and plead for forgiveness. But the teacher thought I had fainted.

That’s when I heard, “Since form 1 this boy has never fainted, he cannot start fainting today…Bring him here!!!”

OTIIIIIIIS, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?? He had to shout, yet I was standing right next to him.

“Mwalimu I don’t feel okay. I have been having a bad fever for the whole week. I think I have Malaria.”


He basically meant he was going to break my balls. Hapa sasa niliskia tu kulia aki ya nani..

Ai, I was trembling. I just looked at my dorm captain na huruma ingine hajawahi ona.. My eyes were telling him, “Please come through, okoa hii situation..”

The whole assembly was silent. Guys were curious and anticipation for the unknown had built up. Then the teacher asked, “Where is the dorm captain of this Jakuo/ thief.??” The captain raised his hands…

“Go close that dormitory from inside and wait for me. Let me bring my boka Rao / Nyaunyo…I swear this Jachien is the thief. Omera, wait here, don’t go anywhere.”

He told me this while looking straight into my eyes. “All the other students, you can go back to the DH apart from the form 4s.” The assembly was dismissed. Now the form 4s were there laughing at me.

The Captain did as commanded, he went to the dorms. A few minutes later, the teacher appeared with the Nyaunyo. “Otiiis, follow me.”

I wanted to run. But, running away meant I was the thief and I couldn’t come back to school. I had been running for four years already because of one mistake or another which I had not done. Today I decided, Liwe liwalo.

Once we got to the dorm, we went straight to my box… I took my time to open it. I knew the loaves were just there basking, waiting to be eaten; a loaf a day.


I didn’t have a padlock, so the teacher never understood why I was wasting his time..He pushed me aside, stepped forward and flung the box open with a kick…pa!

When we looked inside, we were both shocked. Infact, flabbergasted if not perplexed.. Hakukuwa na mkate hata moja hapo ndani… I clapped my hands in joy, I couldn’t hide it.

“Mwalimu I told you I didn’t have any bread.” I nearly shook his hands in joy… “But the thieves in this school can make some of us look very indisciplined, mwalimu I told you I cannot, and I repeat, I cannot steal bread.”

“BUT I CAN SMELL BREAD IN THIS SPECIFIC CUBICLE, OTIS WHERE ARE THOSE LOAVES? Do you want to say I am mad?” He asked, but it was a trick question, so I couldn’t answer it.

He turned and looked at the captain, then said, “now let’s go to your box….” Damn!!!!!! I felt like this was now a movie, if I didn’t have bread, it can only mean the Captain hid them in his box and he was about to be found… But when we got to his box too, nothing!!!! Karibu nipige nduru ya furaha walai.

The teacher was mad, he called all the form 4s who slept in that dorm and ransacked all their boxes but he never found anything. Alikasirika mbaya sana.


Everyone in the dorm turned an looked at the Captain… We all knew he hid the loaves.

He started laughing so hard and said, “lakini Ortis akili yako sio sawa…kwa hizo mikate tano, tatu ni zangu na mbili ni zako… Sawa??” Sawa, I said..

We walked back to my cubicle… But this guy was just a genius.

He had squeezed the loaves flat, sliced each loaf into halves, then staffed them inside my pillowcases. He did the same with his pillows too. I noticed my pillows looked fluffy for some reason, but I never thought ni mkate zilikua hapo ndani..

That was the last time I ever stole such a huge number of loaves. I decided I will take only one every Sunday.

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